The Lexingtonienne
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  • July30th

    No, we are not about to roll up on Skyline Chili while admiring the red and white water tower (but that’s a good feeling too). We are in Firenze!

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    Here’s the difference between Florence and Rome. First, the views are better.

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    The people are still really beautiful, but they are much nicer than the Romans. Florence is cleaner than Rome, and the shopping is way better. And so is the gelato. And Michelangelo’s David (sigh) lives here. Is it possible to be in love with a man who is 500 years old, 15 feet tall, and made of marble? Apparently, it is. Anyway, here is the view from our hotel window:

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    Yesterday morning we did an historic tour of Florence, where we saw my aforementioned boyfriend (you’re not allowed to take his photo though) and the Duomo.

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    Afterwards we got caught in a torrential downpour with huge thunder and lightning. Apparently when the power goes out in Florence, a big alarm sounds through the city, in case the power going out wasn’t enough to let you know that the power has gone out.

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    Hubba Bubba and I ducked into a cafe for shelter, where I noticed that my hair looked literally like a bird’s nest. Magnifico! Then we made a run for it (because, of course, as you might guess, our umbrellas were tucked safely into our suitcases in the hotel room at the time), and hovered in the foyer of an apartment building for a while.

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    Later in the day it cleared up, and we trekked over to the Basilica di Santa Croce, where Galileo and Michelangelo are both buried. Here’s Michelangelo. He completed David while in his mid-twenties before moving along to paint the Sistine Chapel, but he lived to be 89. Talk about peaking early.

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    We also discovered this garment worn by St. Francis of Assisi. Italy is so full of these sorts of unassuming surprises! I would have expected a giant Vegas-style billboard: “STEP RIGHT UP! GARMENT WORN BY ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI IN HERE, FOLKS!” But instead it just kind of quietly sits there while you almost walk by it. It makes me wonder how many amazing things we have walked right by.

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    But there is one thing we certainly did NOT miss. It was right in our hotel room:

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    The Italians don’t live in big spaces, nor do they provide you with much in your hotel room. Our room in Rome barely provided enough space to walk around the bed. They did, however, find space for a bidet, and so did our hotel in Florence.

    Mike and I giggled. Stood over it. Studied it. Didn’t touch it. Googled instructions as to its use. Giggled some more. Avoided it. Last night I was reading in bed when Mike strutted out of the bathroom, looking proud as a peach. “What are you grinning about?” I demanded.

    “I just cleansed my intimates,” he announced, with the gusto of a man who has just gotten a raise or learned he is descended from the Habsburgs. “I feel like a new man.”

    “You used the butt washer?” I jumped out of bed to investigate the evidence in the bathroom. “How?

    He explained that you stand over it and angle the nozzle however it suits you. The hotel kindly provides some soap and linens. Sure enough, the bidet was wet like a sink that someone has just washed their hands in, and one of the neat little linen towels was lying in a crinkly pile on the floor. “I feel like a new man!” he continued to proclaim.

    I have to hand it to the guy for trying new things and liking them. Tonight at dinner he ordered the goat and quite enjoyed it. He was on a bit of a high because — after he was repeatedly mistaken in Rome for a native Spanish-speaker — a man today asked him if he was Italian! We had stopped in a highlyecommended pizza place for a slice (stools and a counter type of place), when we noticed that the guy next to Mike seemed to be speaking Italian to no one in particular. Finally in English he said to Mike, “Are you Italian?” It turns out he was talking to Mike the whole time; we just had no idea. Anyway, Mike was pretty excited. I don’t blame him. :)

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    But speaking of new experiences, I can’t wait to tell you about our Taste Florence tour — fantastic! I will probably be back in the US of A when you hear from me again. Tomorrow we travel by train back to Rome, then get up very early Sunday morning to fly to Heathrow, then to LA for a delightful 22 straight hours of traveling. Whew!

    So have a great weekend, and I will talk to you on Monday!

    Ciao bella,
    Hannah

  • July27th

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    Buon Giorno from the Eternal City!

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    We have had a wonderful time since arriving in Rome. On our first full day (Sunday), we explored Ancient Rome, including the Arch of Constantine – which was completed in the year 315 A.D. (pictured above). And we saw the Colosseum…

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    We walked through the Roman Forum, where only stones remain of what was once like the best city ever. It was REALLY hot, and Hubs didn’t always feel like getting in the picture. I didn’t blame him, but I still made him be in it.

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    This is all that remains of the temple of the Vestal Virgins – the city’s most beautiful women from the wealthiest families – whose job it was to keep the eternal flame alive, or else the Romans believed the city would fall. Our tour guide described the Vestal Virgins as being “like nuns, only beautiful.” 😉

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    And of course we visited the Vatican, where we toured the museum…

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    … before taking about 20 minutes to view the truly breath-taking Sistine Chapel.

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    They don’t allow photos in the Sistine Chapel, but I can tell you I think I found my dream job there. They have these security guys stationed in the chapel whose job it is to shush the crowds and smack cameras out of people’s hands. Yes please. As the oldest child, I think I possess a certain gift for bossing people around, and hissing, “SHHHH!!!” and bellowing, “SILENCIO!” all day long sounds like a pretty sweet gig to me.

    After you view the Sistine Chapel, you are spit out into St. Peter’s Square.

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    This is where the Pope pops up (on Wednesdays, apparently)… top floor, right-hand side, second window over.

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    We’re taking off in a minute to do some shopping… but I must tell y’all the funniest thing really quick.

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    Everywhere we go in Rome, people think Mike is Spanish-speaking. When we reported to the tour bus and they were handing out radio guides, the lady looked at Mike and said, “Espanol?” And then last night when he ran into a little shop for some bottled water, the cashier greeted him with, “Hola!”

    I have laughed and laughed over this! I can see why they think he might be Spanish-speaking… he’s all short, dark, and handsome… but this is the guy who took EIGHT YEARS of Spanish and cannot speak a word of the language. In fact, when he was in college, he needed to pass a Spanish class in order to graduate. After struggling all semester long, he finally went to the professor and said, “Look, we both know I have to pass this class, but we both know that’ll never happen. Can you help me out?” The professor thought about it and said, “Tell me one word in Spanish.” Mike said, “Burrito.” And that kind professor passed him.

    We go to Florence tomorrow… if our internet luck continues to hold up, you will hear from me there!

    Ciao from me! Adios from Mike!
    Hannah

  • July26th

    As you know, I took myself on a little candy bar tour of England. It’s kind of like being in Willy Wonka land — all the choices seem outlandish and whimsical, many have slightly onomatopoeic names, and the ingredients (Aerated chocolate? Honeycombed centres?) definitely sound like they came from an oompa loompa-powered think tank.

    As a reminder, these were the contenders:

    The Cadbury Twisted – a Cadbury Creme Egg that comes in bar-form and is available, apparently, all year round – and the Topic bar, which is essentially like a Snickers but with hazelnuts instead of peanuts.

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    White Maltesers – white chocolates with crisp, light honeycombed centres – and the Cadbury Starbar, made of milk chocolate with a caramel and peanut centre. Haha – “centre.” Those Brits.

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    Wispa – aerated milk chocolate – and Twirl – two milk chocolate fingers – which, I admit, I chose in a hurry and didn’t realize were just plain chocolate. Automatic disqualification.

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    And finally, the Cadbury Double Decker – milk chocolate with a soft, chewy nougat top and crunchy cereal bottom – and the Nestle Drifter, a crispy wafer dipped in chewy caramel and covered in chocolate.

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    And the winner is… STARBAR… for its classic and delicious combination of milk chocolate, peanuts, and caramel, as well as its top-notch moniker. The Drifter was a close second… but “Drifter”? What is that? Congratulations, STARBAR… you’re really good.

    More soon from the Eternal City…

    Oompa Loompa Doompety Doo,
    Hannah

  • July23rd

    Tomorrow (Saturday) morning we’re off to Rome, but here’s a last glance at some of the London sights.

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    On Tuesday I visited the National Gallery (pictured above), where there are approximately one trillion amazing paintings. I saw a Caravaggio (always exciting), some very famous Holbeins (pretty awesome), some 15th Century Flemish stuff — which I always geek out over — and some lovely Renoirs, Seurats, and even a da Vinci. Can you tell I was a big art history nerd in college? :) This is the view of Trafalgar Square from the steps of the National Gallery.

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    Yesterday I hopped on one of those open-top buses for a two-hour tour of the city, and while it’s obviously not very in-detail, it does give you a quick overview of your surroundings.

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    Here’s Westminster Abbey…

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    … and the Tower of London.

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    Look kids, Big Ben and Parliament!

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    This is Fleet Street.

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    This is the Barber Shop on Fleet Street… but I’d get a shave somewhere else if I were you.

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    These are the fingernails of the woman sitting in front of me on the bus tour. Although she and her manicure were not officially part of the tour, I still felt compelled to get a photo of what I felt was a significant sight. I’m guessing she doesn’t do dishes.

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    Here’s the London Eye…

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    … and the distinctly Tudor-style St. James Palace, which was built by Mr. Tudor himself, King Henry VIII.

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    I’ll tell you one thing England has got down pat… the picturesque. I found these guys swimming in the pond near Kensington Palace. I mean really:

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    And while the Enchanted Palace exhibition at Kensington Palace wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, the garden sure was nice.

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    We saw Les Miserables last night, which was fine but I prefer shows with pretty costumes. The Les Mis costumes are all dirt and rags, which I realize is the point, but I still like pretty costumes. Playing the part of Marius was none other than NICK. JONAS. This excited a great many 13-year-old girls in the audience. I, however, am more of a Justin Bieber gal. Mike and I grabbed a bite to eat in Chinatown before the show.

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    Afterwards we walked down to Buckingham Palace. We passed through these arches…

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    … and walked a very long way until we got to a circle with a big fountain. Apparently we were right there in front of the place but were like,

    – “Where is it?”
    – “I don’t know.”
    – “Well do you see a PALACE anywhere?”
    – “No, but it seems like it should be right here. There’s a big building there.”
    – Random friendly Londoner: “Are you lost?”
    – Me: “What? No.” (trying to look as though I make a habit of strolling foreign cities in the dark)
    – “Oh, we’re standing right in front of it.”

    As Mike noted, it just looks like a building. But it’s a palace. Shouldn’t there be sparkles in the air around it? I’m pretty sure palaces are surrounded by sparkly air. Anyway, here it is, surrounded by regular air:

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    You can tell that Big Momma herself was IN, because her flag was flying atop the palace. On a side note, I am now considering flying a flag over my house when I am home.

    And finally, I’m going to miss the Tube, which I was so proud to have figured out, even though it’s really hot (it’s not air conditioned) and smells of cumin and B.O. I had the interesting experience of riding it at rush hour the other day, and I thought to myself, “At least when you’re on the 405 in LA, you have air conditioning, your own music, and your face isn’t stuck in some stranger’s armpit.” Then again, I realized, when you’re on the 405 at rush hour, you’re there FOR. EVER. You may be stuffed in like a sardine on the Tube, but the journey takes the same amount of time. WINNER: The Tube.

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    See you in Italy!
    Hannah

    P.S. The results of the Weird British Candy Bar Contest will be posted soon…